ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Tom Izzo couldn't lead Michigan State to another basketball championship. Now, it's Spartans hockey coach Ron Mason's turn to take a shot.
Mason, the winningest coach in college hockey history with 897 victories, has been there before. He guided the Spartans to the national championship 15 years ago.
"I've experienced the joy of a national title. I'd like to see this team have that opportunity," Mason said after practice Wednesday. "I think it's really important for the kids and for our fans, alumni and university, moreso than for myself. It would be nice to have the icing on the cake."
To get that icing, Michigan State (33-4-4), which had a 23-game unbeaten streak during the regular season and has been ranked No. 1 since November, will first have to get past defending national champ North Dakota (28-7-9) in the semifinals on Thursday.
It certainly promises to be a struggle. North Dakota features what is perhaps the nation's most dangerous line: Jeff Panzer, Bryan Lundbohm and Ryan Bayda have 82 goals and 123 assists among them this season.
Still, the Fighting Sioux of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association are the underdogs against the regular-season and playoff champions of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. But they like the role as they seek to become the first repeat champions since Boston University in 1971-72.
Boston College (31-8-2) of Hockey East, meets Michigan (27-12-5) of the CCHA in the other semifinal. It will be a rematch of the championship game three years ago.
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